Orlando City falls short of three points
puts together one of its best offensive games of the season, but it’s not enough to secure a victory as the Lions play to a 3-3 draw with Alanta FC.
ATLANTA — In July, debates raged about whether Orlando City and expansion side Atlanta United were rivals.
“Of course not! They haven’t even played yet,” was the general consensus, as fan bases bickered and an Atlanta billboard went up in downtown Orlando.
Saturday afternoon, as a record-breaking announced crowd of 70,425 packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there was little doubt the only two Major League Soccer teams in the southeast were closing out a rivalry series.
Dom Dwyer scored his first and second MLS goals and had an assist for Orlando City (9-12-8, 35 points), but it wasn't enough to overcome Atlanta United (12-8-7, 43 points). A Josef Martínez hat trick that forced the Lions to settle for a 3-3 draw and a 0-1-2 series record.
“Obviously, our objective was to get three points here, as it will be now the rest of the way,” Orlando City coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “So to settle for a point is a little bit disheartening.”
But the performance, he thought, was better. The Lions now have five goals in the past two games when it took the previous six games to get that many.
The tit-for-tat scoring began in the 10th minute when Donny Toia sent a long ball into the box, aimed right at Dwyer, who leapt over a defender for a header into the lower left corner of the net.
Dwyer ran off to the right side of the pitch, bringing his hands to his mouth to cover a massive grin as his teammates embraced him.
“I said he was going to score this game,” fellow striker Cyle Larin said. “He only scores in big games and he scored today.” Twice. After Martínez equalized in the 39th minute, Dwyer struck again three minutes later. Lions midfielder Antonio Nocerino started the sequence by tapping the ball wide to right back Scott Sutter, who crossed it to Dwyer for another header and a 2-1 lead entering halftime.
Dwyer revealed little enthusiasm about his accomplishment after the game, saying he’d prefer the elusive three points. He did, however, go into the match wanting to be the first person to score against Atlanta at the new stadium. United shut out FC Dallas and New England in its first two games there.
“I just like to drift off the back line,” Dwyer said. “We got quality deliveries from our fullbacks. They put it in the right spots, you just gotta go in there and take it.
“It’s good. We’ll build on it from today.”
Martínez equalized again in the 55th minute off an assist from Chris McCann, who started at left back for the first time this season in place of an injured Greg Garza.
And again Orlando City countered three minutes later. This time, Dwyer found Larin for a forceful header to regain the lead.
A few seconds later, Lions centerback Jonathan Spector, who returned from a knee injury to play for the first time in five weeks, felt pain and left the field. Léo Pereira replaced him.
Before he left, Spector had some key tackles — one that stopped a Miguel Almirón break-away in the first half — to briefly stifle the opposing attack.
Atlanta continued to press and Martínez eventually found a third equalizer in the 69th minute, earning his second hat trick in backto-back games. He now has 16 goals this season.
“They’re probably one of the better attacking teams in the league going forward, so it was a good test for us,” Spector said. “We handled it relatively well, for the most part. Obviously giving up three goals is far from ideal, but they put us under a lot of pressure.
“Just disappointing with the result. I felt like we really had ’em there.”
Orlando City’s Dom Dwyer (left) celebrates with teammate Donny Toia after one of his two goals against Atlanta United. Dwyer also had an assist on the Lions’ final goal.